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Celebrate 50th anniversary of The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' album with Grand Rapids Pops' live performance

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Hear music from 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with Classical Mystery Tour and the Grand Rapids Pops, April 28-30, 2017.
Beatles tribute group Classical Mystery Tour salutes the 50th anniversary of 'Sgt. Pepper' album with Grand Rapids Pops.

Beatles tribute group Classical Mystery Tour salutes the 50th anniversary of 'Sgt. Pepper' album with Grand Rapids Pops. /Courtesy photo

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Grand Rapids Pops' 'Sgt. Pepper's' 50th Anniversary

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 28-29

3 p.m. Sunday, April 30

DeVos Performance Hall

303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students

Call (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to


Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in 'Sgt. Pepper's' 50th Anniversary, April 28-30.

Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in 'Sgt. Pepper's' 50th Anniversary, April 28-30. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Jim Owen (left) and Tony Kishman of Classical Mystery Tour.

Jim Owen (left) and Tony Kishman of Classical Mystery Tour. /Courtesy photo

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band changed the course of rock music.

Released on June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. charts, making it the soundtrack for the “Summer of Love.”

The cover alone, with images of the Fab Four surrounded by the likes of Mae West, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe and W.C. Fields, launched the era of record album art.

But the music was the thing. The album won four Grammy Awards in 1968 including Album of the Year, the first rock recording ever to win that award.

The album that tops Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is 50 years old this summer.

The Grand Rapids Pops celebrates Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary with The Beatles tribute act Classical Mystery Tour in DeVos Performance Hall.

Hear songs including “With a Little Help from My Friends” plus songs such as “Penny Lane” and “A Day in the Life” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, with a matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30.

Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students. Call Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to

Classical Mystery Tour, which has appeared four times previously with the Grand Rapids Symphony, will play nine songs from Sgt. Pepper.

“We've added four new songs for our show in Grand Rapids this year: ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,’ ‘When I'm Sixty-Four,’ and ‘Lovely Rita,’” said leader Jim Owen.  

Nine songs from Sgt. Pepper plus songs from the Beatles’ earlier albums will be part of the show led by Grand Rapids Symphony’s Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt.

Playing music from Sgt. Pepper for a live audience is something the lads from Liverpool never got to do themselves. A year earlier, John, Paul, George and Ringo had given up performing in public. Even if they had wanted to, it’s doubtful the audio technology of the day would have allowed them to do music from Sgt. Pepper complete with a symphony orchestra on stage.

It’s entirely different today.

“We’re able to actually recreate these things live with an orchestra and mix the sound for the audience that sounds really good and close to the original recordings,” Owen said on CBS Philly in February when the show debuted.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was an album of many firsts. It was the first album to print the song lyrics in full.

The cover designed by Sir Peter Blake, which also included images of Edgar Allan Poe, Laurel and Hardy, Karl Marx, Alfred Einstein, Sonny Liston, Shirley Temple, Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich and Aldous Huxley, was, in its day, the most expensive ever made.

Sgt. Pepper seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it,” said Ringo Starr in a recent article in Billboard magazine.

The surviving Beatles are commemorating the Sgt. Pepper anniversary with a reissue release of the recording on May 26 with several packages including new mixes and unreleased outtakes.

Owen, who spent time as part of the cast of the stage revue Beatlemania on Broadway, launched Classical Mystery Tour in 1996 to perform music of The Beatles in public. His mates in the band – Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, Tom Teeley as George Harrison and Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr – all have spent time in road tours of Beatlemania as well as touring with some of the biggest names in pops/rock music.

With 20 years in the business, performing with more than 100 American orchestras, Classical Mystery Tour has been playing Beatles songs for twice as long as the Beatles were in business themselves. The group’s most recent appearance in West Michigan was during the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2014 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

Grand Rapids Symphony will be among the first orchestras to collaborate with Classical Mystery Tour in the 50th anniversary salute to Sgt. Pepper.

John Lennon died tragically after he was shot to death in December 1980. George Harrison, a longtime smoker, died in November 2001 of complications from throat cancer.

Owen, however, never aspired to be a singer and songwriter like Lennon.

I’m really not that creative,” he told the Pittsburgh Courier-Post in January. “I’m not good at writing music. My joy is playing the music I love.”

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